Valuable Physical Education Courses Underused
By Jessica Mestre '10
During spring semester two years ago, I tiptoed out onto Orr Rink for the first P.E. class meeting of Ice Hockey Fundamentals. As a Californian and a Floridian, my classmate and I had each only been on the ice once before, but men’s hockey coach Jack Arena ’80 demonstrated the utmost patience and instructional prowess as we learned how to C-cut, stop, crossover and even skate backwards in the span of four weeks. The year before, I met one-on-one with men’s soccer coach Justin Serpone weekly to learn about coaching youth soccer. We talked about what worked when I coached a pack of little eight-year-olds and how that contrasts with coaching college ball. Another semester, softball and volleyball coach Sue Everden helped me conquer my repressed fear of all those formidable contraptions in the weight room. Machine by machine, we talked about what settings were appropriate for me, and then designed a personalized workout. Women’s squash coach Tom Carmean taught me that a tennis serve does not really translate to the squash court. I learned enough of the basics to play recreationally with friends. And with the guidance of women’s golf coach Michelle Morgan, I went from never having touched a club outside a round of putt-putt to developing a decent swing. Last week, I rejoined Coach Arena (who also coaches men’s golf) to extend my knowledge past the swing and onto the course.

As a senior, I have recently been reflecting on my four years, and considering what words of Amherst wisdom I can impart to the underclassmen. It is easy to overlook all the resources this education affords us, but the physical education courses are particularly underutilized. This program provides students, faculty and staff with the opportunity to learn new skills for an active lifestyle. When else will you be able to take nearly private lessons with collegiate varsity coaches (without giving your wallet a work-out at the same time)? If you don’t yet know how, learn to swim. Ease into a routine with “Beginning Running.” Pick up road cycling. Beef up your racquet skills with whichever class is appropriate for your skill level. You can even have a personal trainer! Each class offers close attention from seasoned professionals. The coaches have always been patient with me, and enthusiastic about sharing their passion for the game. Even as a non-varsity athlete, I have been able to build relationships with many of the coaches we see on the sidelines of competition.

P.E. classes also bring together students with similar interests. At the least, you will get to know new faces around campus; you may make friends. I studied abroad and traveled with one of my cardio kickboxing classmates. That same class introduced me to a wonderful group of staff members who I still work out with regularly. (Thanks, Colleen!) Select courses can be intimidating because you may be playing with particularly skilled varsity athletes, but in my experiences, everyone has been very welcoming and supportive. It also makes cheering at the basketball and soccer games that much more exciting when you have actually shared the court or field with many of the players.

The current session began last week, but don’t let that discourage you from getting involved. Some classes are so small that, with a courtesy e-mail to confirm, the coach may be able to catch you up on what you have missed. Other classes (small-sided soccer, for example) aren’t comprehensive, so people can easily join at any point. A few courses have regulars who keep in touch by e-mail and meet up even when the classes are not officially in session. Don’t have equipment? Not a problem. I used ice skates from the Outing Club for a one-time fee of five dollars. You can use racquets and balls (during business hours) from Issue, downstairs in the gym. The coaches might have suggestions if there is other equipment that you don’t know where to find.

So, I encourage you to challenge yourself and maybe surprise yourself in the process. Physical education classes serve as an enjoyable and different way to work out. Faculty and staff — don’t forget that this is available to you too. Underclassmen — I hope you start now and continue participating until graduation. Seniors — thesis writers need a mental and physical health break anyway. Non-thesis writers have all the more energy to make the most of the resources here before we leave in … err … 47 days.

Issue 21, Submitted 2010-04-07 03:47:02